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Vic Fangio explained Michael Wilhoite and the green dot

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Vic Fangio provided some insight into the defensive play-calling process. We break down his comments.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spoke with the media today, and he provided some process details that I found interesting. This isn't some huge piece of breaking news, but it is one more little tidbit that helps us understand the way the defense operates.

Fangio was asked about the green dot that Michael Wilhoite wears on the back of his helmet. The dot denotes that he gets to have a helmet to which coaches can speak before plays. It does not denote a defensive captain, but the guy who helps organize what the defense is doing on a given play.

Fangio talked about the process for relaying calls to the defense. He sends the call to linebacker Jim Leavitt, who then radios it into Wilhoite. Fangio also explained why a middle linebacker gets it more frequently than a safety. Here is his transcript

LB Michael Wilhoite wears the green dot now. What does that entail? What does he have to do to fulfill that duty?

"I call down the defense."

To who?

"To [linebackers coach] Jim Leavitt, well to all the coaches, but Jim Leavitt's got the walkie-talkie and he pushes a button and tells Wilhoite what we're in and Wilhoite relays it to everybody."

Once that call's made, then does he have other responsibilities?

"Oh sure, yeah absolutely."

Why did you pick him to wear it instead of someone else?

"You always want it to be an inside linebacker because they're in the middle of the action. And Mike's more experienced than Chris."

Do some teams have safeties do it?

"I was with a team where we had a safety do it one time. The only problem with having a safety doing it is if you get a deep ball that he's involved with, he can be far away from people more times than a linebacker could."

Little things like this are interesting tidbits that help us better understand what is going on in a football game. Injuries to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have left the 49ers with two fairly young linebackers starting in the middle of their defense. Thus far things have gone fairly well. It will be interesting to see how opposing offenses game-plan against Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite as the season progresses, but for now, it's looking good.